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Exclusive: Frescobaldi To Depart Folio, Naming Shaw-Ross And Vintus As Its New U.S. Importers

August 30, 2017

After a two-decade partnership with the Mondavi family, Italy’s Frescobaldi is shaking up its U.S. route to market, splitting its portfolio and aligning with two new importers: Shaw-Ross International and Vintus Wines.

Beginning January 1, 2018, Florida-based Shaw-Ross will take on U.S. import rights for the Frescobaldi and Danzante brands, which combine for about 150,000 cases in the market. New York-based Vintus Wines will become the U.S. importer for the Ornellaia, Masseto, Luce della Vite and Attems labels, which account for about 35,000 cases and skew heavily toward the prestige segment of the Italian category. Folio Fine Wine Partners, led by Michael Mondavi, currently handles all of the above wines in the U.S. (The cruise line, airline and duty-free business for the Frescobaldi group will continue to be handled by Slainte Wines.)

In an exclusive interview with SND, Frescobaldi president Lamberto Frescobaldi thanked Michael Mondavi and his team for their efforts over the years, and said the main reason for the move was to divide his company’s vast portfolio to ensure that each winery is getting proper focus. “We have somewhat of a weird portfolio in that we don’t have one pyramid—we have a number of different pyramids. Each of them has something unique to offer, and they each need focus to grow to the next level,” Frescobaldi said.

“Shaw-Ross has built Château d’Esclans and Marqués de Riscal into leaders in their respective categories, and we think they’ll be able to do the same for Frescobaldi,” he added. “Vintus is a young company that has proven its ability to grow niche brands using a mix of different distributors in various markets. We believe we can grow our U.S. business by 10%-15% annually in the years ahead.” Currently, Frescobaldi derives about 16% of its total €101 million ($121m) in annual revenue from the U.S., which Frescobaldi notes is a smaller share than many Italian wineries, offering plenty of room for expansion.

Shaw-Ross managing director Bruce Hunter says gaining Frescobaldi is a game-changer for the company in the Italian category. “We really didn’t have an Italian portfolio, and this enables us to get into the game with a great selection of Italian wines in all price categories, from Nipozzano at $15 up into the hundreds of dollars a bottle,” he says. CastelGiocondo Brunello di Montalcino and Ammiraglia are two high-scoring Frescobaldi labels with particularly strong potential moving forward, Hunter adds. Shaw-Ross is owned by family members of former SWS shareholders.

With Ornellaia, Masseto, Luce della Vite and Attems, Vintus gains some of the most prestigious names in Italian wine. All of the above have been featured among Wine Spectator’s annual Top 100 wines, and routinely garner scores of 90 points or higher. Vintus president and CEO Michael Quinttus says that the company will focus on “precise account distribution, sales growth through our powerful fine wine distributor network, and enhancing the distinction of each property among consumers.” Vintus’s existing portfolio includes the Rhône’s E. Guigal, Champagne Bollinger, Portugal’s Quinta do Noval and Italy’s Tommasi, among many others.

The creation of the Luce della Vite brand in the mid-1990s represented the initial partnership between Frescobaldi and the Mondavis. In 2002, the two families partnered to acquire Ornellaia. Then, in 2005, after Robert Mondavi Winery was purchased by Constellation, the Frescobaldi portfolio moved to Michael Mondavi’s Folio Fine Wine Partners company, although Frescobaldi has never had an ownership stake in Folio.

Today, Ornellaia, CastelGiocondo and Luce della Vite are owned by Tenute di Toscana S.r.l., controlled by Frescobaldi in partnership with SPI Group (owner of Stolichnaya) and Michael Mondavi. Frescobaldi says Mondavi will sell his stake in that business to Frescobaldi before the end of the year. —Daniel Marsteller

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